The desire to provide greater care and lasting relationships brings two nursing alumni back to Mississippi University for Women.

Dr. Lindsay Kemp (right) demonstrates suturing for graduate student Lauryn Hicks

Each week, 21 nurses from Mississippi and neighboring states assemble on the campus of Mississippi University for Women as part of the university’s Master of Science in Nursing program. The program is available to nurses with a baccalaureate degree and two years of registered nursing experience. Upon completion, graduates are prepared to be a direct provider of care and eligible to sit for national board certification as a Family Nurse Practitioner (FNP).

As part of the Advanced Procedures course, students receive personal, hands-on instruction from seven graduate faculty members on such skills as suturing, basic radiology and chest x-ray overview, EKG interpretation, physical therapy ordering, palliative care practice considerations, dermatological procedures in primary care and diabetes/obesity management.

The on-campus course allows students to network and build collaborative relationships with faculty and statewide experts such as nurse practitioners, physical therapists, specialty nurses, physicians and surgeons. The on-campus relationships help to prepare the future nurse practitioners to become safe, competent and cost-effective healthcare providers.

Dr. Alena Groves

“The in-person classes offer a connection for the students that they do not receive in online programs. It allows them to get to know the faculty and allows the faculty to better support, guide and mentor the students with weekly face-to-face advisor meetings. The W provides a ‘connective’ educational experience that is difficult to achieve with online programs,” said Dr. Alena Groves, coordinator for the Master of Science in Nursing program at The W.

For labor and delivery nurse Lauryn Hicks becoming a nurse practitioner is the next step in furthering relationships with her patients.

“Making the bond with the patient is the biggest reward at the end of the day, especially after a tough day. Nurse practitioners diagnose, manage and follow patients. It’s a continuous relationship,” said Hicks.

From her time at Forrest General Hospital, Hicks developed a passion for women’s health. She sees a need for more women’s health nurses and a better quality to care, especially in rural settings.

Austin Black discovered his passion as a Veterans Affairs nurse in Tupelo.

Austin Black

“At the VA, I guide the care more than I was exposed to in a hospital setting. I really enjoyed being involved in the patient’s care. I wanted to continue learning the why behind physicians’ decisions and how to help the patient.”

As alumni of the university, furthering their career at The W was an easy decision. The opportunity to have face-to-face classes from expert faculty was at the top of their list of priorities when choosing a program.

Groves said many nurses return to pursue their master’s degrees to improve access to care among their communities and their state in order to improve health outcomes in areas that historically have poor health and nutrition and have a lower socioeconomic status when compared to other states.

“Nurses in advanced practice, such as nurse practitioners, are in a position of influence among their communities with regards to the policies that affect nursing practice and the overall health outcomes of their patients. They have reach, rigor and drive. They affect their local commerce by reducing detrimental health effects, reducing health care costs and even providing employment,” explained Groves.

The W is the only program offering an on-campus advanced procedures skills workshop. The program is a three semester, face-to-face family nurse practitioner program offering a personal, connected learning experience. Learn more about The W’s hybrid MSN program at:


March 9, 2023

Contact: Tyler Wheat

(662) 241-7863

The evolution of Ellen Ann Fentress’ work continues.

A project that originally started as essays about segregation academies in the state of Mississippi has changed names to include stories from public schools. The revamped website, which is called “The Admissions Project: Race and the Possible for Southern Schools,” has been featured recently on The Community Foundation for Mississippi. The foundation is the fiscal agent for the project, a 501c3 nonprofit.

Fentress, a visiting professor in the Mississippi University for Women’s low-residency MFA in Creative Writing, also has started work on a three-episode podcast of polished audio documentaries in the style of “This American Life,” an American weekly hour-long public radio program. Fentress has taken three reporting trips this summer to the Heidelberg, Mississippi, area to begin work on the podcasts with the support of Robert Anderson and Marshand Boone, project contributors who are lending crucial time and skill to the nonprofit.

“With so much culture wars conversation about writing on race, the project is a vote for the power of hard truth telling,” said Fentress, who is seeking grass-roots support to keep the project operating. A $7,500 grant from the Mississippi Humanities Council that allowed Fentress to launch the project under its original title, “The Academy Stories,” in October 2019 recently expired.

The project is special for Fentress, whose mother graduated from The W and whose grandmother and great grandmother also attended the school, in part because she graduated from Pillow Academy in Greenwood in 1974. She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in Modern Languages from Mississippi College in 1978 and an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington College in 2008.

“No one really wants to tell the stories because it is not a proud story, but they need to be recorded for history,” said Fentress, who first wrote about her experiences at Pillow Academy in an essay in the online publication “The Bitter Southerner.” She said she recently noticed at least one college syllabus (from Trinity College in Connecticut) assigning reading from “The Admissions Project.”

Fentress isn’t The W’s only tie to “The Admissions Project.” Faculty members Paulette Boudreaux and Bridget Smith Pieschel have shared their stories on the website as have MFA students and alumni like Teresa Nicholas (current student) and MFA alums Jackie Clowney and Courtney Clark.

Fentress said Clowney only realized her alma mater had been founded as a way to flee Memphis school integration after she heard her presentation on the history project during our 2020 MFA residency.

Clark’s story was cited in “Southern Beauty,” a southern history study released by University of Georgia Press on Aug. 15. After her site essay appeared, she talked about the experience and about taking part in “The Admissions Project” on Delta Talk by David Dallas, a radio and online interview program. 

Also, MFA alum Kyla Hanington organized and appeared in webcasts about “The Admissions Project” co-sponsored by the Prince George’s County (Maryland) Memorial Library and the county’s Human Relations Commission. Boudreaux talked about her essay as a guest on the April 2021 webcast.

The Mississippi Free Press has partnered with “The Admissions Project” by presenting a portal to the project on its home page. There have also been programs at Delta State University, at the 2022 Southern Literary Festival at The W in April and at the past two years’ McMullan Young Writers Workshop, which brings high school writers together for a week-long residency every July at Millsaps College. 

Fentress said a date hasn’t been set for the release of the podcast. She welcomes financial support to help defray travel and technical expenses and encourages grant makers or grass-roots supporters who find resonance with the project to aid in her efforts to capture pieces of avoided history she feels will enable everyone to take important steps toward a healthier future.

“The story keeps evolving,” Fentress said. “I can’t help but think bringing this conversation into the light instead of continuing to suppress it — because it hasn’t been talked about for 50 years — is going to help. I hope the website is not just a confessional. It is designed to have a constructive conversation and to see where it goes. The first step is to tell these stories.”

Fentress encourages anyone who wants to tell their academy or public-school story to go to:

If you would like to donate to the project, go to: